October 9, 2011
NEW TRANSLATION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL, continued. The last few weeks we’ve discussed the new translations of the Holy, Holy, the Mystery of Faith and the Gloria, which we have already begun to sing at Mass. This week we’ll begin to discuss the remainder of the changes that will be introduced on November 27, in particular the prayers of the Introductory Rites.
Some of these changes were mandated by specific provisions of the Vatican’s 2001 instruction on translation, Liturgiam authenticam [LA]. In particular, LA 56:
Certain expressions that belong to the heritage…of the ancient Church…are to be respected by a translation that is as literal as possible, as for example the words of the people’s response Et cum spiritu tuo, or the expression mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa in the Act of Penance of the Order of Mass.
Of all the changes in the new translation, the most difficult for the people to get used to will be the change in a response repeated throughout the Mass, literally from beginning to end. Whenever the priest says, “The Lord be with you” (or “peace be with you”), it has become second nature for us to respond, “And also with you.” In the NT, however, this response will change to, “And with your Spirit,” which, following the mandate of LA 56, is a word-for-word translation of the Latin, “Et cum spirtu tuo.” This brings the English translation into accord with the Mass translations in the other major languages (e.g., Spanish: “y con tu espiritu,” French: “et avec votre esprit,” etc.).
The OT reflects the view of some that the exchange “The Lord be with you…And with your Spirit” is more or less a simple friendly exchange of greetings. Others, however, including the renowned theologians Fr. Joseph Jungmann and Cardinal Yves Congar, point out that the tradition sees this exchange as a form of prayer. The priest calls on the Lord to be with the people, and then the people respond by invoking the Holy Spirit to enliven the special graces given to the priest at ordination (his “spirit”) so that he may perform his special priestly sacramental duties well and fully in the Mass. Because of this, from the earliest days of the Church the liturgical response, “et cum spiritu tuo” was only said to a bishop, priest or deacon.
Of course, besides the greeting “Dominus vobiscum”/“The Lord be with you,” the Roman Missal provides the priest with two alternative greetings, which we should consider briefly. The first alternative is taken directly from 2 Cor. 13:13, and was well translated in the OT as: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The only difference in the NT is changing the word “fellowship” to “communion.” This seems to reflect the thought of both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who maintain that the word “koinonia” in the original Greek Scriptures is better translated as “communion,” signifying a relationship of true unity/union, rather than “fellowship” which implies merely a type of friendship.
The second alternative greeting, however, shows significant differences between the OT and the NT, as the NT uses a word for word literal translation of the Latin, which directly quotes St. Paul’s greeting in Rom 1:7 and 1 Cor. 1:3.
Latin: Grátia vobis et pax a Deo Patre nostro et Dómino Iesu Christo.
OT: The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. NT: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Immediately after the opening greeting and response, the priest introduces the penitential rite:
Latin: Fratres, agnoscámus peccáta nostra, ut apti simus ad sacra mystéria celebránda. OT: My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries, let
us call to mind our sins.
NT: Brethren (or brothers and sisters), let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare
ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.
While at first the changes here seem only to be in word order, one key difference should be noted: “agnoscamus” is more properly translated as “acknowledge” rather than “call to mind.” The difference is important: we not only think about our sins, we make it publicly known that we are sinners. The invitation is not to simple internal reflection, but to public confession.
Note that in the OT three different forms of the invitation by the priest were provided, and the priest was instructed to use “these or similar words,” so that he could change the words if he chose to. These options are not in the Latin, and so not in the NT.
Although the penitential rite may take various forms, the one most commonly used at St. Raymond’s is the ancient “Confiteor,” or “I confess.” Several changes are made to the words of this public confession, but the most dramatic is found in the following:
Latin: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.
OT: through my own fault.
NT: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault
It is striking how the OT reduced the three “mea culpas” to one, and how the NT corrects this, according the specific mandate of LA 56 (see above). This omission in the OT seems to have been an application of Vatican II’s call to reduce “useless repetitions” in the liturgy (see last week’s column). However, this principle applies to the Pope (and his collaborators) as he composes/selects the prayers to be included in the Latin Missal, and it is not the role of translators to second guess the Pope’s judgment (see LA 20).
Moreover, not all repetition is “useless.” Consider two examples: 1) “Lord [Christ] have mercy” (“Kyrie eleison”), and 2) “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” Both of these use the triple repetition to emphasize God’s infinite mercy. The thrice repeated “through my fault” in the Confiteor emphasizes our sinfulness, and so forms a parallel and connection to these two subsequent threefold pleas for God’s mercy. [Note also: 1) any triple repetition in the Mass is always an allusion to the Trinity, and not to be considered “useless,” and 2) the triple “mea culpa” reminds us of Christ’s triple forgiveness of St. Peter’s triple denial].
Note also the OT’s omission of the phrase “my most grievous fault,” (“mea máxima culpa”). We also see a similar omission earlier in the prayer where “peccávi nimis” (“I have greatly sinned “) is translated in the OT as “I have sinned.” There seems to be a clear trend in the OT of downplaying the gravity of our guilt. Fortunately, this is corrected in the NT.
Besides the Confiteor, there are two other optional forms for the Penitential Rite. The first of these (“Lord, we have sinned against you…”) has been substantially reworded in NT to conform to the Latin, but for brevity’s sake I will forego further discussion here. The second alternative (“You were sent to heal the contrite…”) remains mostly unchanged.
Next week…The Creed.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles